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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – January 2023 (with Revisions)

The state-level report on employment and unemployment that was released today shows little change in current conditions or the near-term outlook for Arkansas.  For example, the unemployment rate, at 3.4%, remains in the 3.5%+/- range in which it has fluctuated over the second half of 2022. The rate remains historically low.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

However, revisions to the underlying data for both the household and employment surveys shows much stronger employment growth over the past two years than previously estimated.  The revision to the unemployment rate amounted to 0.2 percentage points in December: previously reported at 4.6%, it is now reported to have been 4.4% (with the January rate unchanged from that revised estimate).  On the other hand, the number of employed Arkansans was revised upward over the past two years, resulting in a total for December that is 22,642 higher than previously reported.  From December 2020 through December 2022, previous reports showed an increase in the number of employed of approximately 35,000. The revised figures show an increase of nearly 59,000 jobs.  This revision implies an annual growth rate of 2.3% from December 2020 through December 2022, compared to the 1.4% pace that was previously reported.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

The increase in employment resulted in a similar boost to the total labor force figures. After the revisions, Arkansas post-pandemic decline in the labor force participation rate appears much smaller than previously reported, and the rate is now only about 0.5 percentage points below the pre-COVID level.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
The data from the Nonfarm Payroll Employment report were also subject to annual revisions. Although compiled from completely independent source data, the revisions to Arkansas payroll employment were also substantial. Total employment for December 2022 was revised upward by 27,000 jobs.  Most of the revision was for 2022: the growth rate from December 2021 through December 2022 was originally reported to be 1.4%; it is now estimated to have been 3.3%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

The table below summarizes the revisions to the super-sectors covered by the payroll employment data. The sectors with the largest revisions to both growth and employment levels included Construction, Retail Trade, and Other Services.  The only sectors to show negative data revisions were Manufacturing (related to nondurables production), Information Services, and Government.

Source:

The newly-revised data, updated for January 2023, show a monthly increase of 6,700 jobs (seasonally adjusted), with a cumulative twelve-month gain of 44,200 (a 3.4% growth rate).  The sectors showing substantial one-month increases were concentrated in the service-providing sectors: Professional & Business Services, Education and Health Services, & Leisure and Hospitality Services. Wholesale Trade also expanded by over 1,000 jobs, while Retail declined slightly.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Compared to the pre-pandemic peak of February 2020, the revised nonfarm payroll statistics show a net gain of 56,700 jobs — approximately 4.9% cumulative growth. By comparison, U.S. payroll employment is only 1.8% above the pre-pandemic level.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

 

 

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – December 2022

The end-of-year employment data for metropolitan areas is in. Most of Arkansas metro areas finished 2022 with unemployment rates slightly higher than in December of 2021. Compared to the statewide average of 3.5%, metro area unemployment rates were relatively low in Northwest Arkansas (F-S-R) and Jonesboro and relatively high in Hot Springs, Memphis, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  An approximation of the unemployment rate for the remaining parts of the state (Non-Metro areas*) suggests an above average rate in those areas as well. In Fort Smith and Central Arkansas (LR-NLR-C), the unemployment rate was statistically equal to the statewide average.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

There were no significant changes in unemployment rates from November to December.  Compared to a year ago, rates were generally up slightly across Arkansas metro areas, with the exception of the border-areas of Memphis and Texarkana, where unemployment rates declined relative December 2021. Our approximation for non-metro* portions of the state suggests an increase in unemployment rates than in any of the state’s metro areas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased slightly in Hot Springs, Jonesboro, and Little Rock, while Texarkana and Pine Bluff saw larger monthly increases. Data for Memphis showed a small decline.  Compared to a year ago, employment is higher in every metro area, with most exceeding the statewide growth rate (with the exception of Pine Bluff).  Approximating the change in non-metro* employment, there was little employment growth over the past twelve months. Compared to the previous business cycle peak (February 2020), employment growth in non-metro regions appears to have exceeded every metro area except Northwest Arkansas.  All Metro areas except Pine Bluff had higher employment at year-end than in February 2020.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

County Unemployment Rates
Data on unemployment rates at the county level (not seasonally adjusted) reflect a fairly typical pattern of unemployment rates around the state. Rates tend to be highest in counties in the Delta and along the southern tier of the state.  The lowest unemployment rates were in Northwest Arkansas, with Washington and Benton Counties registering rates of 2.0% and 2.1%, respectively. The counties with the highest unemployment rates were Ashley County (6.0%) and Phillips County (7.3%).  For reference, the statewide not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.9%.

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*NOTE: The method used to estimate the non-metro portions of the state — subtracting the totals for all metro areas except Memphis and Texarkana from the statewide totals — is an approximation. It effectively includes Crittenden County and Miller County in the approximated non-metro total, while incorrectly subtracting employment and unemployment for Le Flore County, OK; Sequoyah County, OK; and McDonald County, MO.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – November 2022

Data on labor markets showed deteriorating conditions in November:  Unemployment continued its upward creep, while both household and payroll surveys showed employment contractions.

The unemployment rate ticked up from 3.6% to 3.7%, matching the national unemployment rate.  The number of unemployed increased for the 8th consecutive month, rising by 875 in November.  Since March, the number of unemployed has risen by 7,949.  The household survey also showed a decline in the number employed, with that total falling by 2,292 in November.  Having fallen for four consecutive months, employment is down by more than 9,000 since July.  The Arkansas labor force has also contracted for four months now, falling 1,417 in November and approximately 4,300 since July.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment was also down in November, declining by 3,200 jobs (seasonally adjusted).  Net job losses were registered for nearly every major sector, with the notable exception of Education and Health Services (up by 900 jobs).  Transportation and Utilities also registered a small increase.  Employment in Retail Trade dropped by 1,200, suggesting that the hire of temporary workers for the holidays was running below the typical pace.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Although employment was down for the month, the number of payroll jobs remains 18,300 higher than a year ago (+1.4%).  Year-over-year growth rates are particularly notable in Education & Health Services and Leisure & Hospitality Services, both being supersectors that suffered huge employment losses during the COVID pandemic.  Relative to the employment peak of February 2020, employment in Arkansas is up by 27,000 jobs or 1.8%. By comparison, U.S. payroll employment is only 0.7% above the level of February 2020.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – October 2022

The Arkansas unemployment rate increased another 0.1 percentage points in October rising from 3.5% to 3.6%.  It had been previously reported that the U.S. unemployment rate rose by 0.2 to 3.7% in October.

The increase in Arkansas’ unemployment rate resulted from both a decline in household employment and an increase in the number of unemployed.  The number of employed declined by 1,589 in October, the third consecutive monthly decline.  Since July the number of employed has declined by 6,776.  The number of unemployed increased by 1,100 in October.  After 7 monthly increases, the number of unemployed has risen by 7,070 since March.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payrolls expanded by 600 Jobs in October.  Construction jobs bore the brunt of the decline, falling by 800 jobs.  Other sectors showing declines included Professional & Business Services (with the job losses exclusively in Administrative & Support Services) and Education & Health Services (with the job losses all in the Health Care & Social Assistance category).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Compared to October 2021, total employment has increased by 29,200, with increases across most goods-producing and service-providing sectors. The sectors that have shown net job losses over the past year include Mining & Logging, Construction, and Retail Trade.

Relative to the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020, Arkansas payroll employment is up by 28,100, or 2.2%.  Nationwide, the net increase in payroll employment since February 2020 has been 0.5%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – September 2022

Arkansas’ unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percentage points to 3.5% in September.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics had previously reported that the U.S. unemployment rate declined .2 percentage points to 3.5% for the month.  Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, Arkansas’ unemployment rate has been running lower than the national average.  The two rates have now converged.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Underlying the uptick in the unemployment rate was both an increase in the number of unemployed and a decrease in the number of employed.  The number of unemployed has been edging higher for 6 months, having reached a trough of March of this year.  Over that six-month period, the number of unemployed has risen by nearly 6,000.  The number of employed Arkansans declined for the second consecutive month, falling by 2,445 in September after a decline of 2,775 in the previous month.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

The declines in employment have driven a downturn in the size of the total labor force as well, down 2,400 over the past two months.  Two months of household employment declines indicate that labor markets might possibly be losing some momentum.  However, two months of data aren’t enough to establish a trend, but are merely suggestive of weakening conditions.  Overall, with the unemployment rate below 4%, labor market conditions remain strong.

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 3,400 jobs in September (seasonally adjusted).  Before seasonal adjustment, the data showed a sharp increase in employment; however that was more than accounted for by the seasonal return of faculty and staff to public schools and universities.  In the seasonally adjusted data, the downturn was most prominent in Education and Health Services, which was down by 3,300 jobs. Other sectors with employment declines included Retail Trade, Transportation & Utilities, Financial Services and Other Services.  Sectors with increasing employment included Construction, Government, Information Services and Professional & Business Services.  Within Professional and Business Services, the increase was entirely in the Administrative & Support Services category, which includes temporary workers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Over the past twelve months, Arkansas payroll employment has increased by 35,900 jobs, or 2.8%.  Over the same period, total U.S. payrolls have expanded by 5.69 million, or 3.9%.  Compared to the pandemic/recession trough of February 2020, Arkansas employment has expanded by 2.1%, compared to 0.3% nationwide.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

 

Arkansas Employment & Unemployment – August 2022

The newest reports on employment and unemployment in Arkansas indicate some signs of weakening conditions in the state’s labor markets, but payroll employment continues to expand at a healthy pace.

The headline news was an increase in the unemployment rate from 3.3% to 3.4%.  In light of the 0.2 percentage point increase in the national unemployment rate in August (to 3.7%), it is not surprising to see Arkansas’ rate edge up slightly as well.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The increase in the unemployment rate reflected an increase of 1,020 in the number of unemployed and a decline of 2,648 in the number of employed.  August was the fifth consecutive month of increasing numbers of unemployed persons, up a total of 4,177 since March.  The decline in the number of employed represents a departure from the rising employment trend that had prevailed since December of 2021.  With the decline in employment exceeding the increase in unemployment, the total labor force (and the labor force participation rate) declined for the month.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Although the overall trend in the number of employed has been increasing for over two years, the household employment series has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Payroll Employment
In contrast to the relatively sluggish growth of household employment, nonfarm payroll employment continues to register strong gains. For August, payroll employment was up 3,700 and the gain for July was revised higher by 1,700 jobs (seasonally adjusted data). Although nonfarm payroll employment growth was sluggish in the early months of the year, there have been 13,400 net new jobs created since March—an increase of 1.0%.

Employment growth in service-providing sectors was generally strong in August; however, there were job losses in Construction, as well as in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities super-sector.  Job gains were particularly strong in some of the sectors that have struggled to recover from the pandemic-recession, including Leisure and Hospitality Services (+1,100 jobs) and Other Services (+1,500 jobs).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Compared to a year ago, payroll employment is up 39,000 or 3.0%.the only sectors that have contracted over the past year are Mining & Logging, Construction, and Retail Trade.  Relative to the business-cycle peak of February 2020, most sectors have shown net increases, with the exceptions of Leisure and Hospitality Services and Other Services.  Government employment is still down significantly from pre-pandemic levels, primarily reflecting employment in public schools, colleges and universities.

JOLTS Data
New state-level data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) was also released this morning.  Lagging the employment figures by one month, today’s report for July suggested some leading indicators of slightly weakening conditions.

Todays JOLTS report noted that Arkansas was among the states with the largest decline in job openings for the month (both in terms of numbers and rates).  As a result, the number of job openings per unemployed worker fell below 2.0 for the first time this year.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)

The JOLTS report also cited Arkansas as one of the states that showed a statistically significant decline in job separations, with the Separation Rate falling from 4.7% of the total number employed to 4.1%. The decline in separations was concentrated in the Quits Rate, which fell from 3.5% to 3.0%. Although the month-to-month decline in quits was statistically significant, the trend remains high, consistent with an ongoing process of labor market churning that has come to be known as “the great resignation.”  The Quits Rate for Arkansas remains well above the national average.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)

The decline in Job Openings, Quits, and overall Separations indicate some narrowing of the gap between job openings and available workers, and also suggest that the labor force might be settling into a more stable expansion path.

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – July 2020

The latest report on metro area employment and unemployment mirrors the statewide report released two weeks ago.  Unemployment rates generally edged higher, while payroll employment surged.

As shown in the figure and table below, unemployment rates were unchanged in Northwest Arkansas and Texarkana but were higher in the state’s other metro areas.  Hot Springs and Pine Bluff saw increases of 0.2 percentage points.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Although rates edged higher in July, they are still well below the levels of a year ago, having fallen by at least one-half of a percentage point over the past twelve months.

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased sharply across the state. Hot Springs was the only exception, with payrolls unchanged for the month.  In Little Rock and Texarkana, the percentage increase for July exceeded even the unusually-large 0/9% increase reported for the state.  Compared to a year ago, employment increases range from 1.5% in Hot Springs to 5.4% in Northwest Arkansas.  With the July gains, only Hot Springs and Pine Bluff remain below pre-pandemic employment levels.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

The figure below shows payroll employment trends since the start of 2020.  Interestingly, the two metro areas that remain below pre-pandemic employment levels, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff, experienced the two opposite extremes during the pandemic months:  Hot Springs was the hardest-hit in early 2020, declining by nearly 18% from February to April, while the downturn in Pine Bluff was less than 7%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – July 2022

On its surface, the latest data on Arkansas employment and unemployment might appear disappointing, but the data also point to some positive developments.

The unemployment rate increased slightly, rising from 3.2% in June to 3.3% in July.  Even with the uptick, the unemployment rate is still extraordinarily low and remains below the national unemployment rate (although the difference is not statistically significant).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Underlying the change in the unemployment rate, the data show that the number of unemployed Arkansans increased by 1,084 while the number of employed was essentially unchanged (-36).  The rising number of unemployed is certainly a concern, particularly in the context of July being the fourth consecutive month of increase.  On the other hand, the labor force has continued to expand.  As net new entrants to the labor force expand the pool of workers, it is not surprising to see a transitory increase in the number of unemployed.  Meanwhile, the stalling of employment growth in July appears to be more of a pause in steady growth, rather than a change in trend.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Employment
The monthly press release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services reported a net decline of 2,900 jobs in July.  However, that not-seasonally adjusted number includes 10,800 in government employment, primarily reflecting the summer break at public schools and universities.  Net of this sharp, but perfectly explicable and expected decline, payroll employment in other sectors showed healthy increases.

Looking at the seasonally adjusted data, Nonfarm Payroll Employment increased by 11,200 jobs, an increase of 0.9%.  The news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that Arkansas had the second-largest percentage increase of employment in the nation (Hawaii’s growth for the month was 1.3% and Missouri tied with Arkansas at 0.9%).  Increases were evident in nearly every sector, including seasonally-adjusted government employment.  Gains were particularly notable in Health Services and Leisure & Hospitality Services.  As a whole, the Trade, Transportation & Utilities super-sector gained 1,600 jobs  Goods-producing industries also added jobs in July, with increases in Construction and both Durable- and Non-Durable manufacturing sectors expanding.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Compared to July 2021, payroll employment is up 36,600 jobs—an increase of greater than 2.8%.  Some sectors are down from their highs from the summer of 2021, including Construction and Retail Trade.  However, most sectors have shown significant growth, particularly those that continue to recover from the pandemic/recession (e.g. Leisure and Hospitality Services, Health Services and Transportation).

With the July increase of 11,200 jobs, along with an upward revision of 1,500 to June’s total, payroll employment is now 14,800 (2.0%) above the pre-pandemic/recession month of February 2020.  Nationwide, payroll employment surpassed its February 2020 peak for the first time (barely) in July.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – June 2022

The latest report on metro area employment and unemployment was just about as un-newsworthy as the state-level report that came out two weeks ago.  Unemployment rates were little changed from May to June, with up-ticks of one-tenth percent in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and Jonesboro; and a one-tenth down-tick in Pine Bluff.  Unemployment rates have remained remarkably low and stable.  In the past six months, the only cumulative changes of more than one-tenth of a percentage point were in Memphis (-0.4) and Texarkana (-0.3).  Compared to June 2022, unemployment rates are down by about one percentage point across the state.  Unemployment rates in Memphis and Hot Springs have fallen the most in the past 12 months, attributable to the fact that rates in those metro areas were higher than others during the pandemic-recession.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Employment
Changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed across metro areas.  Six of the eight metro areas saw increases in employment, with the largest gains in Pine Bluff (+1.0%)  and Jonesboro (+0.7%).  Employment in Little Rock declined by 0.4% and was down slightly in Fort Smith.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Compared to a year ago, employment growth has been relatively strong in all metro areas.  The highest growth rates have been in Fayetteville (+5.3%), Memphis (+3.2%) and Jonesboro (+3.0%)  Those three metro areas are also the only three where total employment was higher in June 2022 than it was in February 2020, just prior to the pandemic-recession.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – June 2022

Arkansas labor market conditions were little-changed in June.  The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.2%, paralleling the national unemployment rate, which was unchanged at 3.6%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The number of unemployed workers crept slightly higher again in June, rising by 688 compared to the May figures.  The number of unemployed has increased for three consecutive months, rising by approximately 2,000 since April.  The number of  employed rose by 2,050 in June pushing the labor force up by 2,738.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 4,100 in June, recovering from a downwardly revised decline of 4,400 in the previous month (seasonally adjusted data).  Solid job-growth was seen throughout the goods-producing sector and in Trade, Transportation and Utilities.  The only sectors where employment declined in June was Professional and Business Services, Leisure and Hospitality Services, Other Services and Government.  The decline in Government employment was concentrated in the state and local government, associated with employment in education.  The Department of Workforce Services also cited declines in temporary workers at schools as contributing to the decline in the Administrative & Support Services component of Professional and Business Services.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Construction employment increased by 1,100 jobs, but remains slightly below the level of a year ago.  Retail Trade, Government Services,and Mining & Logging are also down from June 2021.  Total employment over the past 12 months has increased by 32,500, representing an increase of 2.5%.  Gains have been small in recent months, however.  The cumulative increase in employment since January has been only 500 jobs.  Compared to the business-cycle peak of February 2020, Arkansas employment is up by 9,200 (1.0%).  A comparable calculation for the United States shows that the nation has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, remaining 0.3% below the employment total of February 2020.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.